JAKARTA, Indonesia, April 23 -- Chinese President Hu Jintao urged Japan to translate its remorse over wartime atrocities into "actual action" during a much-anticipated meeting here Saturday that both sides said they hoped would ease dangerously heightened tensions between the two countries.
Hu and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi reached no substantive agreements in their 46-minute talk, which analysts said could be a starting point for improved relations.
Demonstrators march through a Tokyo street after their peaceful rally to protest recent anti-Japanese violence in major Chinese cities. About 150 protesters passed through a neighborhood with a large Chinese population.
(Koji Sasahara -- AP)
The meeting took place a day after Koizumi, addressing an Asian-African summit attended by representatives of more than 100 countries, reiterated an apology for World War II aggression against Asian countries.
The tensions had been building for months, but only in recent weeks did anti-Japanese protests involving thousands of young demonstrators erupt in a dozen Chinese cities. The protests were sparked by Japan's approval of school textbooks that the Chinese and Koreans say gloss over Japan's wartime atrocities, its sex slavery of Asian women, the 1937 Nanjing Massacre that historians estimate killed 200,000 to 300,000 people and Japan's bid to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.
"I would like you to recognize history correctly, and I would like you to translate your remorse into actual action," Hu told Koizumi during the meeting.
Particularly vexing for China are pilgrimages by Koizumi and other Japanese politicians to the Yasukuni Shrine, a memorial to Japan's military dead, including convicted war criminals. Though Koizumi last visited the shrine in January 2004, a delegation of Japanese lawmakers went to the shrine on Friday and offered prayers.
Hu raised the issue of the shrine pilgrimage as an example of "wrong moves" taken by Japan. Koizumi said, however, that Hu "did not intend to discuss or debate" each issue and that he agreed.
China also has been increasingly concerned about a U.S.-Japanese strategic agreement that was revised in February to include for the first time the area around Taiwan as a "common strategic objective." Japan has since 1972 respected Beijing's stance that Taiwan is an "inalienable territory" of China.
On Saturday evening, Hu told reporters that he told Koizumi that "the question of Taiwan should be correctly handled" and that Japan should "demonstrate its adherence to the one-China policy and opposition to Taiwan independence."
"The issue of Taiwan touches not just the nucleus of the interest of China. It is related to the feelings of 1.3 billion people," Hu told Koizumi, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry official.
Animosities have also been growing concerning overlapping claims to exclusive economic zones in the East China Sea and sovereignty over a small island south of Okinawa.
Tension can be reduced, but resolving underlying differences will be difficult, said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at the People's University of China.
"Japan fears the rise of China, and China has great worries" about the prospect of Japan as a political and military power, Shi said. The dispute is not simply about textbooks but reflects a range of strategic issues that arise because of China's growing economic clout, military strength and geopolitical influence, he said.
"The danger is that there are more and more serious disputes between China and Japan," he said. "If this trend is continued, future conflict -- even military -- becomes possible."
In the economic realm, China has replaced the United States as Japan's largest trading partner, Koizumi pointed out at the news conference afterward. Soured relations would put some $212 billion in annual trade at risk.
"There is antagonism on both sides, but we should not accuse each other about the past, but rather recognize the importance of developing friendly relationships into the future," Koizumi told Hu, according to Akira Chiba, assistant press secretary for Japan's Foreign Ministry.
Hu, for his part, told Koizumi he hoped to use the meeting as "a catapult" toward a "healthy and constructive relationship," Chiba said.
The talk was the first between the two men since November, when they met at a summit in Santiago, Chile. At that meeting, Hu also raised the issue of the shrine, a sore point that has prevented China from inviting Koizumi for a state visit.
In Tokyo, about 150 demonstrators marched peacefully Saturday to protest anti-Japanese violence in China, the Associated Press reported.